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Rating: * * * *

The striking image of American singer-songwriter-bassist Meshell Ndegeocello on her eighth studio album hasn't been airbrushed, and nor have her songs.

Opening with her thick bass and angsty vocals in Slaughter Ndegeocello's hollow call "Are You Here" ribbons through the dreamlike Tie One On - a song that maximises its pockets of silence.

But on punky Mass Transit, Ndegeocello throws herself into a mish-mash of clashing rock riffs. While White Girl is reggae jumping erratic waves, other tracks ride shrill electric guitar and slip through pretty acoustic chords.

With her rich voice at once esoteric and mournful, lines like Bright Shiny Morning's "if you think I owe you something get in line, get in line, get in line ..." could be met with a Beyonce-hair'n'hip shake and finger wobble. And though it channels everyone from Sade to Santana, it's an album of mostly soul - of the soul-baring kind, especially on the closing Crying in Your Beer with its plea "don't let me die alone".

Jacqueline Smith